Republicans I Have Admired
I am a registered Democrat. Moreover, I am left of the U.S. Center in my politics (which may make me right of center in Europe!). Yes, members of the Religious Rights, I am that dreaded Boogie Man, a Christian who is also a Liberal Democrat (although I prefer the term “progressive”)! And it is no secret to anyone who reads this blog regularly that I not only consider the Bush administration a bunch of war criminals who should be prosecuted, but that I have little love lost for most of the current leadership of the Republican Party (for the last few decades!).
But our new President-Elect will be inaugurated one week from today and he is a true bi-partisan who truly wants to forge a new governing consensus. I admit to being skeptical that such can be done in the current political climate .(I think Republicans believe “bi-partisan” means that Democrats are to do all the compromising and they give up nothing–even when the Democrats win decisively!) But I do not think God is a Democrat and I do not think all Republicans are evil. In fact, during that period of history when Democrats were coddling racists I would have been a Republican (there were liberal Republicans in those days) –or maybe a third party member. And I want the GOP to reclaim its better self–instead of thinking that it needs to keep channeling Ronald Reagan. (Newsflash GOP: Ronnie did make the biggest tax cuts of all time, but also the biggest tax increases to pay for the resulting debt. More hostages were taken under Reagan than under Carter and he did nothing to release them. He didn’t cause the downfall of Communism in Eastern Europe, brave Eastern European democratic activists (e.g., Lech Walesa), Pope John Paul II, and the ineptitude of the Soviet Union all did that. Ronnie repeatedly brought us to the brink of nuclear war. He also granted 2 huge amnesties for illegal aliens all you GOP anti-immigration folks. And his second term was controlled by others while he hid his Alzheimer’s Disease–and gave us Iran-Contra, Abscam, arms sales to Saddam Hussein, and the defense of dictators all over the planet (South Africa, the Philippines, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti–just for starters. And there were TWO recessions during Reagan’s 8 years. Quit calling this second-rater the greatest U.S. president that ever lived! Sheesh!)
So, if the GOP is REALLY interested in becoming a vital force in American politics, again, and not just a destructive one, here is some help from a Democrat. These are GOP stalwarts you would do well to study and emulate–concentrating only on elected officials and not the many virtuous Republicans in private life.
- Abraham Lincoln. He had huge faults, including being willing to continue slavery if it would save the Union, but he DID save the Union and he DID begin the ending of slavery with the Emancipation Proclamation–even though it initially only applied to Confederate-held territory.
- Theodore Roosevelt. Our first environmental president (he wanted wildlife around so that he could continue to hunt it, but at least he wanted it around!), Teddy is a hero for taking on the monopolies. And, though he was a far cry from a pacifist, he was the first American to win the Nobel Peace Prize because of his work in negotiating the end of the Russo-Japanese War.
- Jeannette Rankin. First woman elected to Congress–from Montana in 1914 (6 years before women could even vote in most of America). Rankin was the only member of Congress to vote against American entry to both World Wars, saying, “You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake.” A consistent voice for the forgotten and marginalized.
- Jacob Javits, first Congressman and later Senator from New York. Originally the only Jewish member of the Senate, he was a champion of civil rights for all. (For this reason he refused to support Barry Goldwater as the GOP nominee for president in ’64 because Goldwater opposed the Civil Rights Act.) He predicted an African-American president by the year 2000 and wasn’t far off. Sponsored the first black pages in the Senate. A champion of the poor, immigration reform, and public schools. Championed unions.
- Former Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes, who opposed some of the New Deal as unconstitutional (and on some of this, he was right), but who was a champion of the rights of conscience, especially religious liberty and church-state separation.
- Dwight David Eisenhower, a former war hero who rightly warned against the corruption of U.S. politics by the military industrial complex. Gave us our interstate highway system and helped create the post-WWII middle class via the GI Bill and the Federal Housing Administration. Could have done more for Civil Rights, but did more than later GOP presidents. Rightly believed in keeping such New Deal programs as Social Security.
- Harold E. Stassen, youngest governor of Minnesota and later special envoy for peace for Eisenhower. Main author of the United Nations Charter. Sacrificed his later political career (he had once been presidential material) to try to stop the rise of the lawless, dictatorial, Nixon.
- Senator Mark O. Hatfield of Oregon, one of only 2 votes in the Senate against the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in ’64 that really began the American chapter of the Vietnam War. Later stood up to Nixon on the War face to face at a “Presidential Prayer Breakfast” sponsored by Billy Graham (to the latter’s embarrassment).
- Ralph Bunche, Undersecretary of the UN and first African-American to win the Nobel Peace Prize (for stopping a Middle East war).
- Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, for his absolute opposition to the Iraq war from the beginning. Now retired, I wish Obama had chosen him, instead of Gates, as the Republican to head the Defense Department.
- Ditto former Congressman Bob Barr of GA–who quit the GOP and became libertarian because of his opposition to the erosion of civil liberties under the Bush Admin.
- Former Sen. Lincoln Chaffee of Rhode Island for many of the same reasons.
- Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, the last truly moderate Republican in the Senate.
If the Republican Party is truly seeking a different path forward, it should look for inspiration to these stalwarts from its past. If not, then it should prepare for a continued legacy of obstruction and destruction on America’s path to a just future that is economically and ecologically sustainable and which works for a more peaceful world.
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